California’s Message to Obama


There is an unspoken law in modern electoral politics:  Take care of your adversaries; your friends can take care of themselves.

In today’s political universe, progressives have no place to go but Democrat.  So it is for minorities, labor advocates, environmentalists and antiwar protesters.  There is no choice in electoral politics but to side with the milquetoast moderates of the Democratic Party.

In this environment of winner-take-all and take it for granted politics, the most populous state in the union is also the most neglected and under-represented.  That is why a Democratic White House can get away with policies and programs that disregard the interests of California with a callousness that borders on disdain.

Things have gotten so bad in the golden state that even members of the Milquetoast Party are beginning to raise their voices:  Thirty two representatives of the California congressional caucus recently went public with their plea for effective relief from the foreclosure crisis, an ongoing catastrophe that blocks any chance of real recovery from the Great Recession.

On the heals of that failure to take effective action, the Obama Justice Department has actively declared war on the one segment of the California economy that shows great promise:  Medical Marijuana.

The Obama administration initially signaled that the federal government would not enforce drug laws against marijuana where voters had sanctioned it for medicinal purposes.  Then, without cause or reason, Attorney General Eric Holder woke up one day with a new religion.  He had seen the enemy and it was not Al Qaeda, it was not Mexican drug lords and the American gun dealers who supply them arms.  No, it was California pot growers, suppliers and anyone associated with the expanding industry, including media outlets that accepted advertisements.

It is time for Californians to unite behind the common interest of economic survival.  It is time for us all to speak out against the White House and its agents in the Justice Department.  It is time to deliver a simple demand:

Cease and desist!  

We are already suffering the effects of your failure to bail out the poor, the dispossessed and what remains of a disintegrating middle class.  If you cannot help us and it is clear you have no intention of doing so, then at least get out of the way while we attempt to climb out of the ravine.

We have stood on the sidelines while your administration has churned out one Republican policy after another and called it victory.  We have stood by in near silence as you extended the Bush tax cuts for the elite, rolled back soft-core Wall Street regulation, peddled a health insurance mandate as comprehensive reform and offered up Social Security to the Republican god of deficit reduction.

That you are speaking out for jobs now when you know it has no chance of passing congress is pure political theater.  We know what follows:  Another temporary payroll tax reduction financed by creative cuts to so-called entitlement programs.  It will not be enough.  It will not even be close to enough.  You cannot plug the dam after it is broken.

As the Occupy Wall Street spreads and goes global, accomplishing more for the burgeoning victim class in four weeks than you will have been able to do in four years, what is your answer?  With enthusiastic Republican support and the applause of chief executive officers everywhere, you push through Free Trade agreements with North Korea, Columbia and Panama.

We can almost see the smirk on your face as you confront your critics on the left:  First comes the accusation of ingratitude, then the litany of alleged accomplishments, then the excuses, the endless excuses, a broken government, Republican obstructionism, the Senate filibuster rule, and finally, the ultimate rebuttal:  What are you going to do about it?

We can rebut the former until the cow comes home but until we can answer the ultimate challenge emphatically and decisively, we will never get anywhere with the president, with the Democratic Party or with congress.

What are we going to do about it?

The White House can attack the California economy with absolute impunity.  Wall Street is on the other coast and that is where the real money is.

What are we going to do about it?

Ask the president as he travels the land, his campaign for re-election already fully engaged:  Where do you stand on Occupy Wall Street?

When he gives the standard, patronizing answer full of empathy and passion, ask him:  What are you going to do about it?  Will you refuse to accept contributions from Wall Street power brokers and the corporate elite?  Watch him stammer like Rick Perry on the issue of immigration.

He gave his answer just last week.  A president who could not be bothered to keep his promise to labor in actively supporting the fundamental right to organize the workplace by majority vote (the Employee Free Choice Act), a president who could not spare a moment to oppose Wisconsin’s prohibition of collective bargaining for public employees while it was happening, now signals a return to the Free Trade juggernaut.

We are not fools.  We know what that means.  Whatever the short term gains in certain sectors of the economy, the long-term effect is a continuation of job loss, union busting and lower wages.

What are we going to do about it?

The best immediate answer is Occupy Wall Street.  The best long-term answer is to elect public officials who refuse to accept corporate contributions.  Remove money from the equation and the stench of corruption will slowly abate.

Until we as a people are willing to reject money politics outright, we will have no power, no influence and no control over what happens next.

Jack Random is the author of Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press) and Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press.)

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